The most distressing part is that for a long time it was close to impossible to tell people that this is not who he is, it is not the man I am married to.
Through all these years, we were like living our lives inside a protective bubble, later joined by our three children, to shield ourselves from all the negativity that his political involvement attracted and not let his work drag us down. It worked to a degree because as arduous as things were, we were not unhappy as a family. In fact, we have found contentment in living a simple but, yet, meaningful life.
I met Soon Juan when we were doing our graduate studies at the University of Georgia in the United States. When I was offered a scholarship to do my PhD at Pennsylvania State University in the north, I wanted to think it over. Having just met, we naturally wanted to be closer together but Soon Juan encouraged me to pursue my doctorate. I still remember him saying, “You've got to have dreams in your life.”
“You've got to have dreams in your life.” It's the kind of things we write for the composition class in school – a cliché that we seldom actually believe in. It turns out that for Soon Juan, he meant it. And it's not just the big dreams that he has for Singapore but the little ones that I've shared with him as we went through life's journey together – our children, our home and our lifetime of memories. It's a journey I'm glad to have taken, experiencing a world of new ideas as well as humanitarian values – and, in the process, become a better person.
It certainly doesn't mean that things haven't been without difficulties and challenges. It is peculiar in a society like Singapore to not be able to keep up with material progress. But we believe that imparting to our children life's values and doing what's right – including taking a positive attitude and persevering in the face of adversity – is a more important gift than all the things we can buy them. Thankfully, they've adjusted well to everything that has gone on.
Through all the trying times, I've always felt that the journey itself is as significant as the final destination because it is from the trials and tribulations, and how we respond to them, that we redeem ourselves and our best human qualities. Being from Taiwan, another Asian country with its own authoritarian past, has in some way equipped me with the ability to empathise with the present Singapore and continue to be hopeful about its future.
It is this hope of a better Singapore, a more humane and compassionate Singapore, that drives Soon Juan on. I can only hope that we've turned the corner and that Singaporeans, through this book, will come to know the person he really is.
I am thankful that those who know Soon Juan have come together to tell Singaporeans something that they have not previously seen or heard of. And to everyone, both past and present, who has entered our lives and woven into it such a rich tapestry – thank you for being there.
- Chih Mei
The book, entitled "Thinker Teacher Rebel Why? Portraits of Chee Soon Juan" is a set of reflections on Dr Chee Soon Juan. This book looks at the SDP leader through the eyes of others; from activists, doctors, politicians, writers and artists who bring together a complete view of the man and his political journey. (It is available online at: http://yoursdp.org/index/store/0-13